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Act of Will by A.J. Hartley
Edited by Liz Gorinsky
Review by Tom Easton
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765321244
Date: 03 March 2009 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: A.J. Hartley's Website / Show Official Info /

Shakespeare professor A. J. Hartley knows how to play games with his profession. In Act of Will, the protagonist, Will Hawthorne, bears the names of both Shakespeare and a later poet influenced by Shakespeare. Will is also a young actor extraordinarily full of himself. He plays the female parts (as young men did in Shakespeare's day) in a theatre obviously kin to the Globe in an out-of-the-way kingdom recently conquered by the Diamond Empire.

The Empire is well aware that theater is a subversive voice, and it doesn't like it. Shortly after Will has been caught swiping part of the winner's pot at the green room card table, and therefore faces being booted out of the company, troops show to arrest the troop's actors and close down the theater. Will leaps into the rafters in best Barrymore style and hares off across the rooftops, only to wind up in a small room with a small group of rebels. Before long, he is a reluctant member of the group, still full of himself, with absolutely no idea that such things as nobility and honor and loyalty to higher causes have any reality off the stage. He's looking forward to leaving the group at his very first opportunity. But events conspire…

The rebels have been invited to track down a mysterious force of soldiers raiding caravans and villages in lands to the south. The prospects don't look good, especially to an egotistical coward, but Will turns out to have a way of tumbling into revealing situations, all of which help to reveal the true nature of the foe and the conspiracy behind it. He also, quite unwillingly, is impressed by his rebel companions (not least by the beauteous Renthrette), and in the end, he does not abandon them. Indeed, he takes big steps on the way to growing up and becoming exactly the hero he is in his dreams of ego.

A fun fantasy that just begs for a sequel or two.

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